What is Remote Pest Monitoring?
Monitoring pest activity remotely consists of using electronic devices to detect pest activity and report that activity via text messages on mobile phones or by email, similar to modern house alarms. These systems attract a lot of enthusiasm because instead of waiting for a pest control routine inspection (usually occurring 6, 8, or 12 times a year) to find out if pests are present, the electronic system monitors and reports in real-time, 24/7.
The electronic pest monitoring idea is not new. for over 20 years, various systems have been coming and going at international pest control tradeshows such as PestEx in the UK or Parasitec in France, with more or less development, support and success. At present, the systems available are only monitoring rodents (rats and mice), but there are hopes to develop monitoring devices for insects as well in the future.
Can Remote Pest Monitoring Replace Pest Control?
You will hear or read a lot of arguments in favour of remote monitoring. They all revolve around 3 main aspects:
- Greener option – No need to use toxic poison – the system uses spring traps
- This is much better because it monitors activity in real-time
- This will save you money on pest control by having fewer routine visits needed
Sounds great? so, why are we not all using them everywhere? Here are some of the realities when it comes to implementing and maintaining the systems.
1. “No need to use toxic rodenticide” – are rodenticides a problem?
Anticoagulant rodenticides have gone under a lot of pressure recently. The EU Biocide Directive has recently imposed many restrictions for their use, including smaller pack size (300g max.) for the general public and half of the concentration of active ingredient (from 0.05% to 0.025%). In Ireland, pest controllers have to obtain and maintain a pest control licence in order to use them. Also under normal circumstances one cannot use rodenticides for more than 35 days.
Are rodenticides so dangerous to us? No, they aren’t. Doctors prescribe Warfarin, the oldest anticoagulant rodenticide, to people as a medicine in order to thin out their blood. Also no-one ever died in Ireland from accidental poisoning, which is not the case with most household cleaning products.
The reason is that it would take a human to consume very large quantities of rodenticide to get affected by it, and the delayed mode of action (3 to 5 days) gives plenty of time to get the simple antidote: vitamin K1.
The real concern with anticoagulant rodenticides is that they are “toxic to reproduction” (but pregnant women rarely decide to go on a rodenticide diet so we are fine), and if misused they can also kill non-target mammals or birds. A classical example in Ireland is when farmers mix rodenticides with raw chicken in order to kill foxes, but birds or other small animals consume the chicken instead. When used safely indoors anticoagulant rodenticides are hardly a concern for accidental poisoning of wildlife.
Using spring traps in monitoring systems instead of rodenticides
Since we cannot use rodenticides permanently anymore, under normal circumstances (i.e. no active infestation) routine pest control deploy non-toxic monitoring blocks or spring traps, in the same way as electronic systems do.
To conclude with rodent monitoring, since 2018 electronic systems and standard pest control use the same equipment so the “non-toxic” argument is no longer relevant.
2. Monitoring Rodent Activity in Real-time – Really?
With conventional pest control, the rodent spring traps must be visually checked on a daily basis:
A mouse spring trap in a locked box
Quick visual inspection of the yellow bar shows the trap is still ready
In ideal circumstances, the electronic system will offer a definite advantage here because there is no need to check a trap until a rodent triggers it off and an alert signal is sent.
In real situations, many things can go wrong:
“False positive” Alert
The electronic system sends an alert, but it is because someone bumped into the trap box or else a broom/mop, during routine cleaning. On sites with many control points, this usually results in a number of additional and costly pest control visits to simply reset the traps.
This is the opposite situation: a rodent gets caught in one of the traps, but no signal is sent or received. For instance:
- The battery of an individual traping device depletes and no longer transmit a signal to the control unit. You should budget for costs in replacing the batteries of each device on a regular and also on a random basis.
- A particular device becomes faulty and no longer send alerts. This could be due to a choc, water ingress, or old age.
- Obstruction: Someone places a new object such as a pallet in front of the electronic trap and the main control unit no longer receive alert signals from the trap
- The main control unit (or intermediate relay units) which gather signals from all the traps, is accidentally unplugged and not replugged. Don’t laugh, this happens when cleaners look for sockets to plug-in vacuum cleaners or workers use electric tools. Like any electronic devices, these units are also at risk of becoming faulty over time.
- Loss of internet signal. If the local modem or phone line is down, the system cannot send the alerts. Some systems use GSM units with SIM cards, but again the ready-to-go cards can run out of funds or the signal can drop
The consequences of a False-negative can be much more significant:
- The trap may only catch the rat/mouse by the leg or the tale, and the rodent ends up suffering for days before succumbing, in direct breach of the Animal Health & Welfare Act.
- A decaying dead rodent in a trap for long periods of time may free ectoparasites (fleas, mites), give a bad smell of decomposition, and attract maggots/flies that can initiate a new type of infestation.
Limitations of Real-time Electronic Monitoring
If it all goes well, electronic systems at best only report rodent trap activations, in some specific locations where the traps are present. What about the higher parts of the building: high walls, rafters, ceilings, etc. where mice love to reside?
Electronic rodent monitoring systems are passive, they wait for a trap activation. The strategy of waiting to catch a rat or mouse in a trap before taking action is a very poor approach to pest management. A pro-active approach is to develop pest management strategies, review them and maintain them regularly in order to prevent pest infestation from occurring in the first place.
To conclude with real-time monitoring abilities
In this broader context, we can see clearly that the electronic systems are very limited compared to traditional pest control: the units are high maintenance, they can (and will) become faulty, they only monitor rodents in a few specific locations, and they fail to address issues with insects, building proofing, hygiene and housekeeping, which are all conducive to pest infestations in the first place.
Regular visual inspections by qualified pest technicians are still the best and only way to prevent pest infestations.
3. Do Electronic Systems Save You Money?
Pest control monitoring systems are not cheap. Like all smart technologies they are costly to develop, but unlike products of mass consumption they are limited to a very small market – Pest Control.
Most systems will cost between €500 and €1000 to install up to 10 control points. They are usually only available for renting and it is not possible to own the technology. In addition, there are a number of additional costs that must be factored in:
- Callouts for trigger alerts: both positive (rodent caught) and false alerts (accidental trigger)
- Scheduled maintenance: checking units are still in signal range, battery replacements, etc.
- Emergency maintenance: faulty batteries, broken trapping units or central unit; missing units.
- Costs of web portal interface
You will also need to allocate a budget if you require additional inspections for insect monitoring, fly-killing units maintenance, building proofing/cleaning/housekeeping; pest control audit reports.
Whether you use a traditional pest control monitoring solution with a service technician or an automated electronic system, you will also need to plan for potential eradication costs with the potential necessity to use rodenticides for a period of time.
The Wedge Electronic Live Pest Monitoring System
One of the popular electronic system made in Ireland is The Wedge System from Traptec. It follows other electronic systems for monitoring pest activity which have developed in other parts of Europe.
Advantages of The Wedge™ system from Traptec
The Wedge™ live remote pest alert system offer the following advantages:
- The Wedge™ is the newest and lowest cost equipment system on the market
- No power comes out of the batteries when the system is idle: no need to change the batteries for 5+ years
- The Wedge™ installation is simple with no programming
- Efficient radio frequency, giving approx. 50 metres range in all directions from the Base Station, and removing the need for repeater devices
- One Base Station provides an area of protection of up to 7,500 Sq Meters
- You can network several Base Stations together to provide protection for larger buildings
- You can use The Wedge™ inside both Mice and Rat bait stations
- You can use the Pull-Plate Wedge™ to monitor wildlife cages outdoors – less stress for animals in captivity
Professionals: Technical Video on How to Setup the Wedge™
How to setup The Wedge™ Live rat & mice monitoring from Traptec